Page last updated at 19:24 GMT, Friday, 9 January 2009

Taylor's son jailed for 97 years

Court illustration of Chuckie Taylor on trial in Miami, file pic from September 2008
Chuckie Taylor led a notorious anti-terror unit while his father ruled Liberia

"Chuckie" Taylor, the son of former Liberian President Charles Taylor, has been sentenced by a US court to 97 years in prison for torture.

It is the first time a US court applied a 1994 law allowing the prosecution of citizens who commit torture overseas.

Chuckie Taylor, 31, who headed a notorious paramilitary unit during his father's rule, said he would appeal.

Charles Taylor is on trial at a court in The Hague - he denies 11 counts of crimes against humanity and war crimes.

It is hard to conceive of any more serious offences against...of human beings
Judge Altonaga

US District Judge Cecilia M Altonaga imposed the sentence on Chuckie Taylor - whose real name is Charles McArthur Emmanuel - at a hearing in a Miami court.

Shackled and dressed in a prison jumpsuit Taylor showed no emotion or reaction at the sentence, but told Judge Altonaga he would swiftly appeal.

He also said he rejected an offer from prosecutors to plead guilty in exchange for a lighter sentence.

"My innocence was important to me then, as it is now," said Taylor.

"My sympathies go out to all the people who suffered in the conflicts in Liberia and Sierra Leone," he added.

"It is hard to conceive of any more serious offences against the dignity and the lives of human beings," Judge Altonaga said just before announcing the sentence. "The international community condemns torture," she added.

Torturing group

The prosecution had urged that Chuckie Taylor be sentenced to 147 years in prison.

Defence lawyers though had argued for leniency, arguing that many of the witnesses at his trial in October 2008 lied in a bid to win political asylum in the US or to settle political vendettas.

Chuckie Taylor was born in the US but after his father won Liberia's 1997 elections he moved to the country, and was made the head of the notorious Anti-Terrorist Unit (ATU) while in his early 20s.

Former Liberian President Charles Taylor (file image)
Charles Taylor Snr faces war crimes charges in The Hague

This elite pro-government military division was widely feared in Liberia and the crimes were especially brutal when the unit was cracking down on a rebellion which began in 1999.

At his trial in Miami late last year, Chuckie Taylor was accused of committing or conspiring to commit executions, imprisoning a group of individuals in a hole in the ground, burning victims and administering electric shocks.

The jury made a direct link between some incidents of torture and the defendant.

Liberia is currently trying to recover from 14 years of conflict.

At nationwide hearings of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, victims are recounting the heinous crimes that tore the country apart.

Charles Taylor denies the charges he backed brutal rebels in neighbouring Sierra Leone.

He stepped down in 2003, as rebels advanced on the capital Monrovia.

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